By GEOFF PARKS
For the Capital Press
Despite a weak economy and high fuel prices, livestock producers at the Oregon State Fair were upbeat about the big Salem event.
"The premiums seem to be the same as what they have been in the past, more or less," said Joe Rocha of R&R Dairy, Tillamook, Ore. "But there have been some cutbacks. They are no longer providing straw and shavings for cattle and we have to buy it ourselves now."
Desa Swaim, the fair's marketing manager, said the fair still spends "$15 to $20 per animal for bedding, bedding removal, electricity, labor for setup and tear down and staff to run the office and shows."
"In 2009, the OSF spent over $99,000 in Open Class Livestock on ribbons, awards and premium payouts," she said.
"With the state fair now being run by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, I don't get the feeling that the agriculture part of the fair is as supported as it used to be," Rocha said.
"We've found that premiums are affected a little bit, but not a lot," said Susan Gonzalez on a Friday night at the fair. Gonzalez and her husband, Greg, raise Hampshire, Yorkshire, Poland and crossbred swine near Central Point, Ore., at their West Coast Showpig Genetics ranch.
Swaim said the Oregon Pork Producers swine sale brings the fair 2 percent of total sales. "We provided them a venue and operational support in 2009 (and) OSF received $412.50 from the $20,625 in total sales," she said.
California's state fair in Sacramento was held a month early this year, prompting some to speculate that the loss of the back-to-back ag events in the contiguous states was affecting the number of livestock showing up in Salem this year.
"California doesn't really affect us," Greg Gonzalez said. "We get enough business through the Washington and Idaho (state fairs)."
Swaim said the numbers for the fair's 2010 Open Class Livestock entries totaled 278 swine, 1,168 sheep, 302 dairy cattle, 626 beef cattle, 639 goats and 87 llamas.
One area that is flourishing is meat goats. Oregon Meat Goat Producers organization, begun in 2003 with 14 members, has grown to over 160 -- many of them at the state fair to display and sell animals.
"The whole industry has grown, especially in the Pacific Northwest," said Joy Parker of Redhead Goats in Scio, Ore., referring to the meat-goat industry. "4-H and FFA entries and quality have grown so much in the last few years that there seem to be more entries than ever in this year's (state fair)."